This week our RealScientists intrepid curator is Veronika Meduna, Science broadcaster and writer for Radio New Zealand. Veronika also does freelance science communication work, and tweets @VeronikaMeduna. She has some pretty cool #scicomm under her belt – so I’m going to pepper this post with epic pics.
Pic 1: Veronika on Franz Josef galcier, with mics in her sleeves, by Brian Anderson
Pic 2: Veronika recording emperors, by Rob McPhail
Pic 3: Veronika Meduna with emperors, by Rob McPhail
Pic 4: Veronika Meduna with emperors, by Rob McPhail
Pic 5: Veronika on Andrill rig, by Tamsin Falconer
Why/How did you end up in science?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t curious about the world around me, so in many ways science was a natural choice. But it took me a while to figure out whether I wanted to be a scientist or a science communicator, and the road to my job as a science broadcaster/writer was long and winding, guided by serendipity more than career planning.
I studied biology, with a focus on zoology and microbiology (and some applied biotech), but also started writing about science when I was a first-year student. I loved both so I continued writing for some years, while I finished my degree and post-grad studies, and then worked as a soil microbiologist, until I eventually moved into science journalism. I’m still not sure why it took me so long to think of science writing as a proper career. Maybe because it’s so much fun? It certainly never felt (and still doesn’t feel) like a job.
Why did you choose your current field/what keeps you there?
I co-produce Radio New Zealand’s weekly science and environment show Our Changing World – and this job is an ideal combination of two things I’m passionate about: science and writing.
In a small country like New Zealand, there aren’t many media jobs that allow journalists to focus solely on science and the environment, so I feel lucky to have one of them.
What keeps me in it? No day is ever the same. I cover all aspects of science and all disciplines, and Our Changing World is a feature programme, which means I head out to meet scientists on their turf, joining them in the field or in the lab, rather than bringing them into the studio. It’s taken me to many remote and special places, including Antarctica, which is the focus during my stint of curating Real Scientists.
Tell us about your work?
There’s no average or normal day in my job, but I spend a lot of my time out and about with scientists, recording material for the show as they go about their work. Sometimes, I get to join them during longer field campaigns or expeditions, sometimes I visit just for half a day or so for a walk-and-talk interview – a radio version of a guided tour through their research. Preparation, research and the actual recording of interviews and soundscapes takes the biggest part of my time.
Then there is all the post-production, which usually means being plugged in through headphones or in the studio and shaping the material – usually a mix of interviews and field recordings – into a radio feature or documentary that hopefully inspires and entertains listeners.
Motivation: why should the lay public care about your research/work?
Science is everywhere and I see my role as a link between scientists and their work and the broader community.
Do you have any interesting external/extracurricular obligations?
I often get involved in other non-media ways of science ‘outreach’ (although this is not a word I particularly like).
Just recently, I had an opportunity to host a Science Live event with the National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, during which a team of ecologists examined an extremely rare specimen of colossal squid.
I have written and curated science exhibitions – most recently Antarctic Time Travel, which is currently showing during the NZ IceFest Antarctic festival.
I get to write books – such as Science on Ice (or Secrets of the Ice in the US edition), or my current book project that explores how different scientific disciplines (genetics, archaeology, linguistics etc) are tracing the last great human migration out into the Pacific, and ultimately to New Zealand.
Any interesting hobbies you’d like to share?
I love music and I play the cello, badly (very!). But I also have a five-year-old and so it’s hard to find the time for regular practice or even just uninterrupted time to listen to music. But in return, it’s been lovely to watch a young child discover music simply by having musical instruments in the house.
I also like the idea of growing our own vegetables and fruit. As above, I don’t get enough time to put into this, but the rewards of harvesting (and eating!) fresh strawberries or carrots with a child more than make up for it.
How would you describe your ideal day off?
My days off are about family and friends, and being outside as much as possible.
Everyone please welcome Veronika to RealScientists! I know a bunch of you are excited about the up-coming week – get your icy questions ready!